Health hazards from volcanic gases: a systematic literature review

Arch Environ Health. 2004 Dec;59(12):628-39. doi: 10.1080/00039890409602947.


Millions of people are potentially exposed to volcanic gases worldwide, and exposures may differ from those in anthropogenic air pollution. A systematic literature review found few primary studies relating to health hazards of volcanic gases. SO2 and acid aerosols from eruptions and degassing events were associated with respiratory morbidity and mortality but not childhood asthma prevalence or lung function decrements. Accumulations of H2S and CO2 from volcanic and geothermal sources have caused fatalities from asphyxiation. Chronic exposure to H2S in geothermal areas was associated with increases in nervous system and respiratory diseases. Some impacts were on a large scale, affecting several countries (e.g., Laki fissure eruption in Iceland in 1783-4). No studies on health effects of volcanic releases of halogen gases or metal vapors were located. More high quality collaborative studies involving volcanologists and epidemiologists are recommended.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acid Rain / adverse effects*
  • Aerosols / toxicity*
  • Carbon Dioxide / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / toxicity*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sulfur Dioxide / toxicity*
  • Volcanic Eruptions / adverse effects*


  • Acid Rain
  • Aerosols
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Hydrogen Sulfide